Starting to Write is Like Swimming

The ocean is large and full of currents. You wade in slowly and then strike out swimming as the sea floor falls beyond your depth. You tread water, breaking through waves to open water where you can steer your course. The first island stands on the horizon, partly shielded from view by spray and rocking breakers.

I did not go to college: it was like graduate school.
I did not go to graduate school: it was an assistant professorship.
I had a graduate school experience in one faculty job.
I had a college experience in another.
Time out of joint.
Ideas out of place, some early, some late.

Paper paper paper THESIS graduate.
Paper paper paper EXAM paper paper paper EXAM paper DISSERTATION graduate again.
Article article article BOOK tenure.
Article article article BOOK promotion.
Again and again but I would like to advance into the clear sea of life work.
Where each piece drops from the whole and is not a token fed to a mountain.

This article says what I want to say but its contours will not fit any journal I know.
My reflex is to make it shrink or expand to fit.
This reflex hampers progress.
I think the journal will come to me as I write.
It will be a new journal I did not know, but wanted to meet.


We thought of dissertations as ending points, perhaps final ending points.
New jobs would be beginning points.
I discern that in fact the PhD exam is the ending point.
Many do end there in practice.
The dissertation is not a capstone but a starting point.
That trajectory lasts through tenure.
Therefore vacation is in order after any PhD exam.
Therefore as well, a dissertation should not be one more get-it-done exercise.
Do that and what should launch you will truncate you.
This is not advice to “perfectionism.”
It is notice that a dissertation is not just about “finishing.”
Finishing has its place.
The stages of childhood are not three: (1) M.A., (2) Ph.D., (3) Assistant Professor.
They are two: (1) Up to PhD Exam and (2) Up to Tenure.
I did not think of things in this way.
My experiments revealed that I might have considered it.
Time is out of joint.
I am starting my dissertation now.

The instructions said dissertations were based on original research.
The word on the street was that they were an exercise to get done.
Some writers and reviewers saw errors.
They were voted down.
Things were easier that way.
The word on the street won.
The word on the street deals in masks.
I lost a project and gained a mask.
I have been carrying the detritus of this mask since.
Original research is not a trick of the new.
Original research comes from the origin.
Philosophical thinking is radical thinking.
Radical thinking is radical in that it comes from the roots.
Professor Zero thinks from the ground up.
This dissertation is based on original research.


9 thoughts on “Starting to Write is Like Swimming

  1. There was also something Jennifer said more recently: you have to have ego to write this kind of thing.

    Very true, because if not the ocean waves crash over you — there are too many possibilities, too much information.

    You have to cut through it all and I really couldn’t have done it during Reeducation’s time because my mind and ego were switched to off (and controlling anything was prohibited).

    1. Weirdly — whenever I have a dream of ocean waves crashing over me, it always portends a flourish of intense creativity. It’s actually a very good sign for me. But these are waves of intuition.

      Also I wanted to say that a major error of Western society and its understanding seems to be to confuse Intuition and Feeling (both in the Jungian sense of these terms).

      Intuition is the means by which intellectuals of any sort — male or female — arrive at their hypotheses. Feeling is more akin to “sentiment” or “sensitivity to others”.

      But this hyper-masculine, contorted male-on-steroids society wants to get rid of “intuition” because it imagines that this is decadent, like “feeling”.

      1. Yes. And waves crashing *are* intuition. I just mean, too much info and synapses and a broad project. You can’t move ahead if you aren’t allowed to actually follow intuition and make decisions.

  2. In addition: never forget that article about aiming high, setting out to do your best work.

    [quotation] Rule 1: Drop Modesty

    “Say to yourself: ‘Yes, I would like to do first-class work.’ Our society frowns on people who set out to do really good work. But you should say to yourself: ‘Yes, I would like to do something significant.’” [end quotation]

    The anti procrastination people say settle for “good enough” but that is giving up at the outset.

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